In this post: Hide
I, like many travel enthusiasts, am easily seduced by the notion of being able to jet off on a whim. Unfortunately, doing it with Frontier’s newly released monthly GoWild Pass just doesn’t make sense.
The beauty of the all-you-can-fly pass is in its convenience, predictability, and, of course, savings. Frontier’s pass, though, is kneecapped by blackout dates, additional fees for baggage and seating assignments, and the uncertainty around flight availability until the day before domestic departures.
I wanted to break down the costs of the GoWild Pass to figure out when, if ever, it makes sense to buy.
A brief overview of the GoWild! Pass
The GoWild! Pass is an all-you-can-fly program offered by Frontier Airlines. It offers different versions, including a monthly pass, a summer pass, a fall and winter pass, and an annual pass. The monthly GoWild! Pass was announced this week and costs $149 for 30 days of unlimited travel after a $99 enrollment fee.
Adding up costs and (many) inconveniences
$149 for an all-you-can-fly pass might seem attractive, but it’s important to remember that a) this pass will not entitle you to unlimited flights and b) you’ll end up spending a lot more $149.
That’s because the $149 price tag doesn’t include a few costs like a $99 enrollment fee (waived until August 7), extra charges for bags, seat assignments, taxes, and fees, which will push the actual cost much higher. Even if you travel with nothing besides a small backpack, you’ll still end up paying taxes and fees. And if you travel with bags, the costs can add up quickly.
There are other costs you should also account for, including last-minute booking and variable availability of flights that often result in accommodation expenses or disrupt your travel plans significantly. On top of that, Frontier has pretty dismal on-time performance and cancels around one in fifty flights, which will cost you even more money, time, and frustration.
Also, keep in mind that flights booked with the GoWild! Pass will not earn you miles or count toward earning Frontier elite status. And while elite status can offer certain benefits like free bags when flying on this pass, the fact that the flights don’t contribute toward maintaining or improving your status dilutes this benefit considerably.
Finally, there are a lot of blackout dates—to be precise, 23 between now and the end of the year—during which the pass cannot be used. These dates usually coincide with popular holiday seasons, reducing the pass’s potential value further.
The actual price of a monthly GoWild! Pass
Okay, so ignoring the inconvenience and cost of delays and cancellations, let’s calculate what you can reasonably expect to pay for a one-month GoWild! Pass.
For easy arithmetic’s sake, let’s assume you take four trips, or eight one-way tickets, with your pass and assume that you take just a backpack (which can be no larger than 14 inches x 18 inches x 8 inches) with you. The taxes and carrier-imposed fees on a one-way ticket will be $15 on the low end and $45 on the high end, for an average cost of $30. For all four trips, then, you’ll end up paying around $240 in taxes and fees.
That means that even if you don’t pay for any seat selection, priority boarding, or extra bags, you’ll still end up paying about $490 for this pass–$149 for the pass, $99 for the enrollment fee, and $240 for taxes and fees.
GoWild! Pass vs. booking normally
I pulled Frontier fare data during non-blackout dates over the next 90 days and found that prices for tickets booked more than a week out hover around $45 each way. Keep in mind that $45 is the average, so tickets can often cost less.
So let’s say that you take the same four trips, but pay for them normally. That would mean spending around $360, well over $100 less than if you had used a pass.
In other words, to make this pass make financial sense, you have to take around six roundtrips in a single month. That’s 12 flights in 30 days–around a flight every two and a half days–and if we account for the many blackout dates you can’t fly, it’s more like one flight every 36 hours.
Who should buy this pass?
For about 99.9% of the population, buying Frontier’s GoWild! Pass is a bad idea. Aside from bloggers and journalists reviewing the pass, or masochists who like the idea of spending hours in uncomfortable seats while being mistreated by bad-tempered airline employees, I can’t think of anyone well-suited for this product. The only sort of flier who might be able to fly enough to break even are business travelers, and Frontier wouldn’t make sense to them for a host of other reasons.
The Frontier GoWild! Pass seems exciting on the surface, but for nearly all travelers, it will be far more hassle and money than it’s worth. Extra costs, last-minute bookings, and blackout dates all add up to a product that offers much less than it initially promises. As it stands, Frontier’s new all-you-can-fly Monthly Pass is a marketing gimmick–nothing more.